2004 01 19
The latest info I have received:
Group permits is the only way to go from Kathmandu. A separate piece of paper which is issued by Chinese Authorities.
No way to get over the border without it. A hassle to extend this in some parts/cities of China.
Contrary to what some famous and useless guide books says, it has always been possible to get a 90 day Chinese visa in Kathmandu without any hassle whatsoever. Now this seems to have changed a bit and further down you can read some of the info which has been sent to me lately.
Some of this is third and fourth hand info, so I can't really verify any of it. Read it and judge yourself. There are many ways around the problem as far as I can see.
Hello Nadine and Janne
( a personal part of this email has been cut out)
…. today I get my passport back with a soft red cancelled stamp (maybe he would loss colour on the high attitude). I real see now no system in the Chinese rules (us -visa should be since this week also more expensive, but that snot my problem. but I see a way for me. my permit which I can use also outside Tibet is 37days that mean. that I would have more then two weeks from Lhasa to leave Tibet and I hope that I can made the 1200 k to golmund in ca 10 days (I think and hope, I have good wind condition,) and then I have to find a place in golmund for my bike and bags. and have to find out the situation about my papers, when it s impossible. I have to travel! (long way / train ) to Hong Kong for a new visa where it s should be no problem for the Pakistan visa. other way with no Chinese visa problems I would go to Beijing for the Pakistan visa. I will see
Here a experience from a another traveller, maybe it s useful for you.
Finally heard from Soeren, the German guy travelling overland across Tibet who was the guinea pig for visa extensions. Basically, although the transport was terrible the journey was good. He got his visa extended without hassles. It was his CANCELLED individual tourist that was extended (not his Group Permit). In a follow-up email he recommended that we get an entry stamp for China made into our passports at the border to be sure we don't run into troubles when we try and leave on Group Permits (which carries all the stamps). Business as usual (fingers crossed we can extend our Group Permit in Yunnan).
I hope my information are still useful for you, maybe you've left to Tibet already. I've spent the last three weeks outside the civilized world so I couldn't check my mails. First of all the good news (no, there aren't any bad ones): The trip overland to China was smooth, I didn't encounter any problems at all. I've already got a visa extension so I still have one month left; even a second extension shouldn't be a problem. As you know I got one month on my visa; that's quite important since you definitely can't extend your visa in Tibet. Therefore try, if possible, to get AT LEAST one month. I met a guy who got 40 days, so be persistent as I suppose it takes some time to get out of Tibet by bicycle. I didn't spent much time in actual Tibet, just stayed three days in Lhasa before continuing to Golmud and Xining. In Lhasa I visited the PSB where I was told that the group visa is definitely valid for travelling in mainland China. My advice is not to bother with them as they don't have any useful information, not to mention travel permits, visa extensions and so on. In Xining again I went to the local PSB to do some more research. The staff told me that my group visa is equivalent to an individual one and therefore extendable but I had to wait until it is almost expiring. With that confirmation I did a long trip from Xining to Yunnan through some of the most remote Tibetan areas in Qinghai, Sichuan (via Maduo, Xiewu, Serxu, Sequ, Ganzi, Kangding, Litang, Daocheng, Xiangcheng, Zhongdian and finally Lijiang).
The trip was great but very exhausting; I haven't met any people speaking a single word English (not to mention any foreigners) anywhere, actually even Chinese speakers were quite rare. It was freezing cold, around minus 20, transportation was the worst I've experienced during my trip (including Afghanistan). But, anyway, it was a great experience and I didn't regret having rushed through actual Tibet so quickly. The scenery is really breathtaking, even compared to the Friendship Hwy and villages are more Tibetan than in Tibet with g! real architecture, no Han influence at all. Most of the time stayed with the locals, sometimes in monasteries. In case you don't manage to slip through the checkpoints in Eastern Tibet to get to Sichuan and have to go along the Tibet-Qinghai Hwy to Golmud (the scenery is just as boring and inhabited as all travel guides say), I can highly recommend that Qinghai-Yunnan route, especially by bicycle. By the way, weather should be fairly ok by the time you arrive. Eventually, after more than two weeks travelling from Xining, I'm in Lijiang now, back in civilization again. About my visa: I just went to the local PSB where the guy told me that my (cancelled) individual visa is still valid and therefore extendable and gave me a one month extension within five minutes for the usual 100 Yuan. That's obviously rubbish since my visa HAS been cancelled (you've seen the stamp, haven't you?) but who cares? I've got my extension which is some kind of separate visa sticker (looks just like the normal individual visa with zero entry permissions as I'm in China already anyway), so neither my group nor my cancelled individual visa should matter anymore. Essentially, my advice for you is the following: don't worry about your visa, just make sure you are in a non-sensitive area (i.e. not Tibet, not Golmud, not the Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan) when it's expiring. The PSB will either extend your group visa or your cancelled individual one. Despite all the horror stories they are usually quite friendly and if they don't have a clue about that weird group visa (often the case) it should even work in your favour. Even a second extension is apparently no problem. By my own experiences I can tell you that Xining and Lijiang are perfect cities to extend your visa but other places in mainland China should do the trick just as well. Some words about the roads out of Tibet.
When I was in Lhasa it was hardly possible to get any permits at all and hitchhiking didn't seem to promise great success. Furthermore, in March it was just to cold to camp so I didn't meet any more adventurous travellers. Actually I haven't met anybody having done a more special route into or out of Tibet. But apparently I'm less optimistic than you so I'm sure you're going to find a way. Curiously, the road from Zhongdian in Yunnan to Lhasa has recently opened up for tour groups (but not the other way around) though it's ridiculously expensive, around 30.000 Yuan for a land cruiser. Maybe that's a good omen and you stand better chances slipping through from Lhasa. Again, your group visa won't make things more risky or difficult. Once you've mad it to Sichuan or Yunnan, nobody will care anymore and you'll be able to get an extension easily. So, basically, things are just the same as they used to be; the crucial point is still the closed roads to mainland China but not the visa.
When you've made it to China let me know! Cheers Soeren